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Women and Newborn Health Service

Health A – Z

 

Emotional Health for Parents

Becoming a Parent

Picture of parents with their baby

Becoming a mum

Becoming a mum

For many women, becoming a mother means their hopes and dreams have come true. They love feeling their baby move inside them. They feel a sense of achievement in giving birth. They love holding, touching, watching, smelling and playing with their baby.

Sometimes the happy emotions of motherhood are mixed up with feelings of loss, fear, worry, guilt, and frustration. You might think “What if I make too many mistakes?” or “Will people think I’m a bad mother?” or even “What about my old life!?”

It is very normal to ask yourself lots of questions when you’re going through a major life change like having a baby.

Sometimes, big changes in your life can leave you feeling overwhelmed – especially when things don’t happen the way you expected. However, there are plenty of things you can do to support yourself and your partner during this time!

Becoming a dad

While women usually start preparing emotionally for parenthood during pregnancy, many men only begin this process after the birth. As a result, the reality of fatherhood can be quite a shock!

Often, the most surprising part of becoming a father are feelings of fierce, protective, overwhelming love for your child.

Fatherhood is just as challenging as motherhood, though not always for the same reasons. You might think “I want to help with the baby, but I don’t know how” or even “It’s stressful being the sole breadwinner.” You might also notice your relationship with your partner changes a lot too.

It’s normal to feel confused, stressed and “out of your comfort zone” when you have a new baby. With any new or difficult situation, sometimes we are able to cope with the challenge, and sometimes we can feel overwhelmed. Fatherhood is no exception.

Just remember – there are plenty of things you can do to support yourself and your partner during this time!

What is emotional health?

Just like there are benefits from being physically healthy when you have a baby, emotional health has benefits too – for both you and your baby.

Emotional health is a state of well-being. When we feel well and content, we are better able to cope with stress, maintain relationships and enjoy life.

Being active, having a sense of belonging and having a purpose in life are all good for emotional health and wellbeing. We not only feel happier, we also cope better with problems and stress.
- Adapted from “Act Belong Commit” (2008-2009)

For more information and tips for how to be emotionally and mentally healthy, go to www.actbelongcommit.org.au.

Benefits of emotional health during pregnancy

When a woman is pregnant, her baby is exposed to everything she experiences – the sounds in the environment, the air she breathes, the food she eats, and the emotions she feels.

When a pregnant woman feels happy and calm, it allows her baby to develop in a happy, calm environment.
However, emotions like stress and anxiety can increase the amount of particular hormones in the mother’s body which can affect the baby’s developing body and brain.

For more information about emotional health during pregnancy, visit Begin Before Birth.

Benefits of emotional health after your baby is born

From birth, every interaction you have with your baby helps to shape the way it will think, feel and behave later in life. These kinds of interactions also help to form important emotional bonds between you and your child.

Good emotional health also helps to maintain positive relationships with any older children and other family, and can help support you and your partner through the challenges of adjusting to a new baby together.

For more information about connecting and bonding with your newborn, visit the Raising Children Network

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What if I’m struggling with my emotions?

Emotional problems are not well understood in our community, but they are more common than people realise – so you’re not alone.

The truth is many people hide the fact they are struggling because they feel embarrassed or ashamed.
Occasional or fleeting doubts are normal and part of the adjusting to being a parent. Occasional negative thoughts or dreams are also normal.

Many things can make you feel this way, including worries about the birth, lack of sleep, or worries about how you’re coping as a parent.

The good news – there are things you can do to help yourself get through the more challenging aspects of parenthood!

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